Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Carlo Carluccio
– 1992: When Senna ‘impressed’ America!!? Yeah, right!!
Nigel Beresford, Penske’s head of engineering: “..It’s funny to remember it now, we were there on this Mickey Mouse track next to a main road out in the desert and the greatest driver in the world was driving round this overgrown go-kart track with people in pick-up tracks leaning over the fence, very probably not aware of what they were seeing. It was very strange”
During the latter half of 1992, Senna attacked Prost’s ethics via the media and in press conferences, calling him a coward because of his manipulation of contracts to get himself into the dominant Williams for the 1993 season and keep Senna out.
Towards the end of 1992, Senna had famously offered his services to Williams for free and had been rebuffed due to the contract that Prost had which forbade the team signing Senna whilst he was incumbent there.
Mansell, also, had become so disillusioned by the politics surrounding the Anglo-French team he had announced his retirement from F1 and signed to drive in Indycars in 1993 with Newman-Haas.
On this day twenty one years ago, Senna tested an Indycar with Penske via his close friendship with Emerson Fittipaldi. He had often attempted to persuade Senna to test an Indycar but when they met up in Sao Paulo in early December 1992, Senna was receptive and Fittipaldi immediately called his boss Roger Penske to make the arrangements.
Fittipaldi had won four races in 1992 and was favourite for the 1993 title. He would be the pace-setter at the test with Senna attending.
At 11am, Fittipaldi headed out on to the circuit with Senna observing. He set respectable times before coming in and fitting new tyres with which he set a best lap of 49.7secs.
12.55pm, Senna went out on to the track and began circulating. Initially he struggled with seating position and the dynamics of a heavier single seater but perhaps most difficult to acclimatise to was the sequential manual gearbox. He would often find himself in the wrong gear and would stop, change back down to first and start again.
Beresford: “We left the same tyres on as Emerson had used and after 15 laps on the same – by now well used – tyres, he bettered Fittipaldi’s time by 0.2seconds, which was pretty amazing.”
He stopped after sixteen laps and expressed his observations about the car. He asked for some set-up changes to be made including the softening of the rear springs and rear anti-roll bar and returned to the track once more.
He was out for only another ten timed laps and he reduced his time to 49.12secs.
After twenty eight stunning laps, he returned to the pits having blitzed Fittipaldi’s time and thanked the team, “I have learnt what I need to know”
This was almost a mirror image of his initial Formula One test with Williams in 1983 when after twenty three laps and smashing their lap record, he thanked the team and left. What a statement of true self confidence.